If Your Vehicle Hits a Utility Pole

Stay Safe in Energized Crash Sites

When you crash into a utility pole, it’s an accident that can be more dangerous than it first seems. The entire accident site could be energized from a downed wire. If you hit a utility pole, especially if you see downed wires, don’t get out of your car.

What You Should Do

  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Tell anyone who approaches your car to stay away.
  • Only leave the car if it’s on fire, and don’t step onto the pavement while in contact with the car. Jump out instead with your feet together.

Use Caution! The Ground May Be Energized

In a collision between your car and an electrical pole, electricity may be flowing through the frame of your car and along the ground. As long as you remain in your vehicle, you’re safe. If you attempt to get out, you’re placing yourself in grave danger.

Do Not Exit Your Vehicle

  • Assume all downed wires are energized, even if you think they may be phone or cable wires. Do not leave the car. Call 9-1-1 instead.
  • There may be wires you can't see. If your airbag has deployed it may limit your vision. An energized power line that you can’t see may be on the ground. Do not leave the car. Call 9-1-1 and let trained professionals tell you when it’s safe to leave your vehicle.

In Case of Fire, Exit Safely

The only time you should leave your car is if it’s on fire. This rarely happens, but if it does, there is a safe way to exit the vehicle

Never touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. 

  • Instead, open the door, rotate your body until you are facing out, put both feet on the running board, hop out, and land both feet on the ground at the same time.
  • Do not touch the car when you jump — keep your arms down by your side.

After you exit the vehicle, hop or shuffle to get away.

  • Separating your feet can create two contact points with the ground and can result in a shock if the ground is energized by a fallen wire.
  • After exiting the vehicle, keep your feet together and "hop" away. Don't run! Never lift a foot. You must either shuffle your feet in tiny steps, with your feet never leaving the ground, or you can hop while keeping your feet together. 
  • Keep both feet as close together as you can. Keep shuffling away with both feet close together until you are at least 35 feet away from your vehicle and any downed power lines.

When Others Try to Help 

If you’ve crashed into a utility pole and someone tries to offer you assistance, tell them to stay away.

  • Shout if you have to — they are in danger, too!
  • Tell them to stay at least 35 feet away from the crash site — about the length of a bus.
  • Tell them you’ve already called 9-1-1 and help is on the way.

If you see someone else who has hit a utility pole, do not approach the crash.

  • If you’re in your own car, stay in it.
  • If you’re on foot, stay at least 35 feet away — about the length of a bus.
  • Shout at others to remain in their car.
  • Call 9-1-1 immediately. Don't wait to see if someone else has already called.
  • If they begin to exit, shout at them to stay in the car. They’ll be safe there until help arrives.

If the crashed car is on fire and you want to help:

  • Stay at least 35 feet away from the crash and downed lines or you may walk into an energized area.
  • Shout instructions to help the crash victim to safely exit the vehicle (hop out, don't touch the car, shuffle feet along the ground to exit the energized area).

Learn More

Date last reviewed or modified: 2/1/19

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